We went to Lake Pleasant Regional Park, northwest of Phoenix, last week. What I mostly wanted to see were the wild burros and we did! The herd is managed by the Bureau of Land Management and there are anywhere from 480-600 from what I’ve read. They are descendants of burros brought over from South Africa in the 1600s. 100 wild burros (jacks) were freeze marked and 55 jennies (female burros) were radio collared to help study and monitor the herd. Some are removed at times and put up for adoption while living and being cared for at a BLM facility. You can read more about this program here.
This is the trail we hiked to try to find them. We didn’t see any there but, fortunately, we saw them even before we started hiking. It was extra nice to see them with some wildflowers around; they looked especially cute frolicking through the flowers.
And we actually saw a few birds!
Red-winged Blackbird (female)
Black-tailed Gnatcatcher (at least the flowers are in focus)
And a few other critters crossed our path:
Painted Lady Butterfly
Checkered White Butterfly
Common Side-blotched Lizard (check out his tongue!)
And we saw the lake, too, of course! This is a lake I used to go sailing on back in the mid-1980s…all the time…almost every weekend for 3-4 years. Since then it has been enlarged a lot so it didn’t really look at all familiar. The lake now covers 10,000 acres and is fed by the Central Arizona Project Aqueduct which diverts water from the Colorado River as well as the Agua Fria River. It was pretty cloudy when we were there and not many boats were on the lake.
New Waddell Dam
The new dam submerged the older, much smaller dam.
This is a 4 shot panorama of the lake. You can see a larger version of it on my Flickr. It was fascinating to see how the lake has changed, I loved everything we saw.
Isn’t he/she gorgeous? We went to another of Maricopa County’s Regional Parks the other day. It was a gloomy, cloudy day and the park left a lot to be desired. It was definitely the least attractive of all the county parks we’ve visited. This hawk was really the only redeeming factor for me.
We saw a Red-tailed Hawk 3 different times while there so I don’t know if this is the same one as the first 2 photos. The one in the first 2 photos was a very cooperative poser and there was even a little sun by then so it was a great photo op. Thank you, Hawk.
Everything else was pretty mediocre. I had a couple of target birds but we didn’t see them…
Not a park I would go to again but we did get a free pass to go to another county park so it kind of evened out.
Valentine’s Day is also Arizona Statehood Day. This is a very big saguaro superimposed on a 1912 map. Happy 107th Birthday, Arizona!
“I’m glad I’m wintering in Phoenix!”
Are you in the mood for the holidays? Hmmm, I’m not really (yet, anyway) but here are a few photos of my yard birds beginning to celebrate.
“For me? I hope it’s peanuts.”
“I pecked that myself.”
That was an Orange-crowned Warbler (“Tink”), a House Finch, a Curve-billed Thrasher, an Anna’s Hummingbird, and a Gila Woodpecker.
“Mom, I wish we had a fireplace and I wish I had a Christmas sweater.”
And here are a few from holidays past…beginning with Google in 2009. He still likes the Christmas tree but mostly lays under it instead of in it now.
House Sparrows, an American Robin, European Starlings, a Verdin, Northern Mockingbirds, a Say’s Phoebe, and a Desert Cottontail were all hoping for some holiday cheer.
Svengali, Kit, Stripey
Jessi, Ivory, Ferguson
Ebony, Google, Edie, Torti
Happy Holidays, Happy Solstice…if you celebrate…
This beautiful Ladder-backed Woodpecker was busy excavating a hole in a mesquite tree when we were at Granite Reef Recreation Area on the Lower Salt River last week. This is the first time I’ve been able to get photos of one at eye level. He was not bothered by me at all and I got within 10 feet of him.
It was a big hole because he was able to get all the way inside.
Granite Reef is the best place to see Red Mountain. Its real name is Mount McDowell but everyone refers to it as Red Mountain because of the way it looks in the sunset. It was not quite sunset when this photo was taken. Red Mountain is on the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Reservation and is off limits to hikers, climbers, and photographers.
Vermilion Flycatcher, male
We really went to try to find the Bald Eagles that nest there as well as a Peregrine Falcon who returns every year. We never saw the falcon and all our views of the eagles were from across the river. We did see two parents and there are two chicks in the nest. Bad photos…
This guy was up in the air the whole time we were there:
And, just as we were leaving, we were lucky enough to see five of the Salt River Wild Horses having a drink and snack right by the parking lot.
This is a male Pyrrhuloxia, sometimes called the “Desert Cardinal.” It is a cousin to the Northern Cardinal. He has been a nemesis bird for me. Their range is more in southern Arizona, southern New Mexico, southern Texas, and Mexico so they are not very common in the Phoenix area. However, this particular bird is now spending his 3rd (at least) winter at the Desert Botanical Garden and I’ve been chasing him that whole time but he was very elusive. I kept seeing photos of him in my Facebook birding group from many other people. He hangs out in a specific area quite a bit and, a few days ago, I sat there for 2 hours waiting for a glimpse. No show. I was getting discouraged but decided to go over one afternoon this past week and get disappointed again. I sat down and, within about a minute, he appeared! And he seemed to do a lot of posing just for me, probably recognizing me from all the times I’ve been looking for him:
Isn’t he beautiful/adorable/unusual? During breeding season, his bill is also bright yellow so he’s even more colorful then but he doesn’t breed up here so I’ll have to try to catch one in southern Arizona sometime.
Gilded Flicker, male
A couple days before finally seeing the Pyrrhuloxia, I went to Gilbert Riparian Preserve (Riparian Preserve at Water Ranch) in search of some rarities being seen there. I never have good luck there unless I’m with an experienced birder. Fortunately, one showed up and, when the bird finally appeared, helped me find it. It was a Prairie Warbler, very unusual for this part of the country, but my picture is not good at all. There are now several more rare (for Arizona) birds there so I should try to make it out there one day this coming week and hope someone can help me find them, too.
And I saw a ton of these fast, little guys:
And these little warblers were energetically flitting about right in the same area as the Prairie Warbler giving me false hope several times as they have the same coloring.
Yellow-rumped Warbler, Audubon’s